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South Texas

The Inherent Danger of Used and Rental Cars

Based on the laws and regulations on the books, it is illegal for any car dealer to sell recalled vehicles that have not been properly repaired. This sounds like a great law, one that should keep people safe by preventing them from buying cars that are dangerous for them to drive. However, everyone should be aware that the law only applies to new cars. There is no similar regulation anywhere to cover used cars. Put simply, there is no specific regulation on the books that prevents a dealer who is less than scrupulous from selling a recalled and still-up repaired vehicle to a customer who comes onto their lot.

Recalled Vehicles

This is no small problem. According to at least one study, approximately 20 percent of recalled vehicles can end up on a used car lot at some point. In 2014, a record 36 million vehicles were recalled for various safety problems, ranging from faulty ignition switches that can shut the car down while driving at high speeds, to brakes that fail at the wrong time, to airbags that, instead of saving lives, could kill people. The fact that one out of every five of them end up on used car lots, that’s as many as 7.2 million vehicles that may or may not have been repaired before they appear at a used car auction.

Most used car dealers buy their cars at auctions. Many used car auctions include large numbers of former rental cars that were sold to the auction house in fleets. Some of them may have been recalled and not repaired, but since used car dealers are under no obligation to disclose that information, and many won’t, consumers should take the time to find out this information for themselves, in order to keep themselves and their families safe from a motor vehicle accident.

Ensure vehicle safety

Thankfully, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now provides a great tool on their website that allows consumers to know whether or the car they’re thinking of buying has been recalled. They can search by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) if they have it, or if they don’t, they can search by year, make and model. If the vehicle they want to buy has been recalled, always ask the dealer if the defect has been repaired. The dealer should have that information available, but if not, they should choose another vehicle.

This is also a good practice if you plan to rent a vehicle. Before you choose one, check the NHTSA website to see if it’s been recalled and ask the rental agent if it’s been repaired. Rental vehicle companies often decide for themselves which recalls are “urgent” and which are not, and they tend to be reluctant to pull a car from their fleet for even a day to repair these problems because they frequently place profits ahead of safety.

Regardless of where you buy, lease or rent the vehicle you drive, you are entitled to drive one that is as safe as possible, meaning one that is free of known safety defects. Protect yourself by being aware of recalls that are relevant to you and ask the car dealer or rental company about whether or not they’ve fixed a potential problem with a vehicle you’re considering buying. If you have been injured in an accident that you believe may have been caused by a known and unrepaired defect, contact the experienced auto accident attorneys in Corpus Christi at the Gutierrez Law Firm immediately for a free consultation.